choose a language or topic »|Tuesday, December 12, 2017
You are here: Home » Editors Picks » Romance Branch
  • Follow Us!

Romance Branch 

Romance

All Romance languages are descendants of Vulgar Latin dialects spoken by the common people in the Roman Empire. Spread of the Romance languages occurred in two main stages: The first stage occurred in 240-100 BC, owing to the expansion of the Roman Empire over a good part of Europe, England, Northern Africa and portions of the Middle East. After the breakup of the Roman Empire in the 5th century, the dialects spoken in different parts of its territory started to diverge from each other and eventually evolved into dozens of distinct languages by the 9th century AD.

The second stage began in the 16th century AD as a result of the expansion of Romance-speaking European powers into the Americas, Africa, the Caribbean, and Southeast Asia. The empires of Spain, Portugal and France spread Romance languages to the these continents to such an extent that well over half of all Romance speakers are now outside Europe.

The table below lists major Romance languages/dialects with over 100,000 speakers, based on the Ethnologue list of 47 Romance languages.

Language/dialect
Number of speakers
Where primarily spoken
Spanish 322 million 1st and 66 million 2nd language speakers Spain, Central and South America
Portuguese 177 million1st and 15 million 2nd language speakers Portugal, Brazil
French 77 million 1st and 50 million 2nd language speakers France, Canada, Africa, Indian Ocean
Italian 62 million Italy
Romanian 24 million Romania, Moldova
Lombard 9.1 million Italy
Catalan 6.7 million Spain
Sicilian 4.8 million Italy
Galician 3.2 million Spain
Piedmontese 3.1 million Italy
Venetian 2.2 million Italy
Emiliano-Romagnolo 2.0 million Italy
Ligurian 1.9 million Italy
Sardinian 1.5 million Italy
Auvergnat 1.3 million France
Walloon 1.2 million Belgium
Friulian 794,000 Italy
Corsican 400,000 Corsica
Provençal 354,000 France
Gascon 254,000 France
Asturian 125,000 Spain
Ladino 110,000 Israel

Status
Many Romance languages have official or co-official status in one or more countries.

  • Spanish
    Spanish is the official language of 22 countries: Argentina, Bolivia (with Quechua and Aymara), Chile, Colombia, Costa Rica, Cuba, Dominican Republic, Ecuador, El Salvador, Equatorial Guinea (with French), Guatemala, Honduras, Mexico, Nicaragua, Panama, Paraguay (with Guarani), Peru (with Quechua and Aymara), Puerto Rico (with English), Spain (co-official in some regions with CatalanGalician and Basque), Uruguay, Venezuela, and Western Sahara (with Arabic). Spanish is one of six official working languages of the United Nations and the European Union. In the United States, Spanish is the most studied foreign language in schools and universities. Spanish has co-official status in the state of New Mexico, and in Puerto Rico.
  • Portuguese
    Portuguese is the national language of Portugal, Brazil, AngolaCape Verde Islands, Guinea-Bissau, and Mozambique. Portuguese is one of the official languages of the European Union.
  • French
    French is the official or co-official language of 26 countries. Four of them are in Europe: France, Belgium, Switzerland, and Luxembourg. Two are in the Americas: Canada and Haiti. There are also two overseas departments of France: Martinique and Guadeloupe. The rest are former French colonies in Africa and in the islands in the Indian and Pacific Oceans. French is a major second language in Arabic-speaking Algeria, Tunis, and Morocco. French is one of the official languages of the United Nations (UN)North Atlantic Treaty Organization (NATO), and the European Union.In the US, French is the second most-studied foreign language in schools, after Spanish.
  • Italian
    Italian is the official or co-official language of Italy, San MarinoVatican CitySwitzerland, and some areas of Slovenia and Croatia.
  • Romanian
    Romanian is the official language of Romania and Moldova.
  • Catalan
    Catalan is an official regional language of Spain, the official language of Andorra, the co-official language in Catalonia, the Balearic Islands,Valencia region of Spain, and in the Sardinian city Alghero.


    Romance languages in Europe

    Occitan (Provençal)
    Spanish
    Portuguese
    Italian
    French
    Catalan 
    Galician
    Sardinian
    Corsican
    Romansch 
    Romanian
    Romance languages outside EuropeRomance languages outside of Europe
    Spanish
    French
    Portuguese
    Italian 

Dialects

European Romance languages have many local dialects which form a continuum of varieties that cross country borders and stretch from Portuguese in the west to Romanian in the east. Purely linguistic criteria to distinguish between language and dialect are hard to apply systematically, and decisions are often made on political, cultural, and literary grounds. Some varieties are particularly difficult to classify. For instance it is difficult to decide whether Galician is a separate language or a Spanish-influenced variety of Portuguese.

  • Spanish
    The classic division is usually made between Spanish from Spain — Castilian Spanish — and Spanish from Latin America. Within each division there are variations involving pronunciation, grammar, vocabulary, and intonation. Despite many regional differences, speakers of Spanish from different countries can understand each other without much difficulty.
  • Portuguese
    There are two main groups of dialects: those of the Iberian peninsula and those of Brazil. The differences between the two involve pronunciation, grammar, and vocabulary. Portuguese varieties spoken in Africa and Asia are closer to those of Portugal than of Brazil.
  • French
    French has a number of major dialects
    European French is usually divided into two major dialects which, in turn, subsume many regional varieties. The two major divisions are Northern and Central varieties of French, (language d’oil), as opposed to Southern varieties of French (langue d’oc).Canadian French varieties differ from Standard French in pronunciation, vocabulary, and grammar. Canadian French is usually divided into three varieties:QuébécoisFranco-Ontariens, and Acadiens.African French varieties are spoken in 31 African countries by well over 100 million 1st and 2nd language speakers. They all differ from Standard French in pronunciation, vocabulary, and grammar. They are usually divided into three groups: (1) Western, Central, and East Africa, (2) Northwest Africa, and (3) Islands in the Indian Ocean.
  • Italian
    Italian dialects form a continuum of intelligibility, although geographically distant varieties are not mutually intelligible. In modern Italy, people communicate mostly in regional dialects, although standard Italian is the only written language.
  • Romanian
    Romanian is traditionally divided into three dialects: (1) Eastern Romanian, including Moldovan; (2) Western Romanian, including Transylvanian; (3) Southern Romanian, including Muntenian/Wallachian adopted as a national and standard language.
  • Catalan
    Catalan is usually broken into two major mutually intelligible dialects: Eastern Catalan and Western Catalan.

Structure

Sound system
The sound systems of Romance languages differ in a number of ways that make generalizations difficult.

Vowels

Consonants

  • /p, t, k/ are unaspirated, i.e., pronounced without a puff of air.
  • There is a strong tendency towards syllables, that end in a vowel, nasallateral, [r], or approximant, with limited consonant clusters in initial and medial positions.
  • Only Italo-Romance languages, e.g., Italian, have geminated double consonants.

Stress
The rhythmic structure of Romance languages tends to be syllable-timed, i.e., every syllable is perceived as taking up roughly the same amount of time, unlike strres-timed languages, such as English, in which syllables may last different amounts of time and in which unstressed vowels are reduced.

Grammar
Despite many differences, Romance languages are characterized by a number of common grammatical features. All have a system of word inflections to indicate syntactic relationships between words in sentences.

Nouns, adjectives, articles, pronouns
Romance nouns have the following grammatical categories:

  • two genders, masculine and feminine, except for Romanian which also has neuter gender
  • two numbers: singular and plural
  • grammatical relations between nouns are mostly expressed by prepositions with no case inflections, except for Romanian which has five cases
  • modifiers agree with the nouns they modify in gender, number and case (in Romanian)
  • modifiers follow the nouns they modify
  • indefinite and definite articles that precede nouns, except for Romanian in which articles are suffixed to nouns
  • an informal and formal forms of address (T-V distinction), such as the tu/vous contrast in French, the tu/Usted in Spanish or the tu/Lei in Italian

Verbs

  • Verbs agree with their subjects in person and number.
  • Verbs have largely preserved the conjugation system of Latin.
  • Simple tenses are marked by suffixes, compound tenses use auxiliary verbs.
  • There are two basic aspects: imperfective and perfective which may be supplemented by other aspectual distinctions.
  • There are at least two voices: active and medio-passive.
  • There are four moods: indicativeconditionalsubjunctiveimperative
  • Most Romance languages make a distinction between two copula verbs corresponding to the English verb to be. One verb is derived from the Latin stare expressing a temporary state, and the other from the Latin esse expressing an inalienable attribute, e.g., Spanish verbs estar and ser. Some languages, such as French, lost this distinction.
  • Personal pronouns in subject position are generally dropped since the verb inflection carries information about person and number.

Word order
The normal word order in Romance languages is Subject-Verb-Object.

Vocabulary
Romance languages have a high degree of lexical overlap (up to 40%) having originated in Latin roots. Some lexical differences among Romance languages may be traced back to the times of the Roman Empire, when Roman provinces may have developed their own local vocabularies. Some are the result of later borrowings from each other, and from non-Romance languages, especially German (in the case of French), Arabic (in the case of Spanish and Portuguese), and Slavic languages (in the case of Romanian), as well as localized innovations.

Below are a few common lexical items in seven Romance languages, Including Latin.

Hello
Good-bye
Thank you.
Man
Woman
Latin
Salve
Vale
Gratias
Vir
Femina
Spanish
Hola, buenos días
Adiós
Gracias
Hombre
Mujer
Catalan
Hola
Adéu
Gràcies, mèrces
L’home
La dona
Portuguese
Olá
Adeus
Obrigado/obrigada
Homem
Mulher
French
Bonjour
Au revoir
Merci
Homme
Femme
Italian
Ciao
Arrivederci
Grazie
Huomo
Donna, femmina
Romanian
Bună ziua
La revedere
Mulțumesc.
Om
Femeie

Below are the numerals 1-10 in seven Romance languages, including Latin.

1
2
3
4
5
6
7
8
9
10
Latin
unus
duo
tres
quattor
quinque
sex
septem
octo
novem
decem
Spanish
uno
dos
tres
cuatro
cinco
seis
siete
ocho
nueve
diez
Catalan
un
dos
tres
quatre
cinc
sis
set
vuit
nou
deu
Portuguese
um
dois
tres
quatro
cinco
seis
sete
oito
nove
dez
French
un
deux
trois
quatre
cinq
six
sept
huit
neuf
dix
Italian
uno
due
tre
quattro
cinque
sei
sette
otto
nove
dieci
Romanian
unu
doi
trei
patru
cinci
şase
şapte
opt
nouâ
zece

Writing

The evolution of Vulgar Latin into different languages in various parts of the Roman Empire is poorly documented up to the 10 century AD because the written language was Classical Latin. However, eventually people in different parts of the Roman Empire started to write in their own languages instead of Latin. Sporadic written texts in Romance started to appear in the 8th century, but the earliest continuous texts began to appear in the century later: French in the 9th century, Spanish and Italian in the 10th century, Portuguese in the 12th century, Catalan in the 13th century, and Romanian as late as in the 16th century.Theswitch from Latin to writing in the vernacular was greatly facilitated by local poets and writers.

All Romance languages are written with slightly modified versions of the standard 26-letter Latin alphabet, although the Moldovan dialect of Romanian is also written in the Cyrillic script.

A a
B b
C c
D d
E e
F f
G g
H h
I i
J j
K k
L l
M m
N n
O o
P p
Q q
R r
S s
T t
U u
V v
W w
X x
Y y
Z z

In all Romance languages, the letters and w are used exclusively in borrowed words and foreign names.

Difficulty

Language Difficulty
questionHow difficult is it to learn Romance languages?
Romance languages are considered to be Category I in terms of difficulty for English speakers.

8 Responses to Romance Branch

  1. Tim

    Thanks , I have recently been searching for information about this topic
    for a while and yours is the greatest I’ve discovered so far.
    But, what about the bottom line? Are you positive concerning the source?

     
  2. Basil

    Albanian is also Romance language!

    “The Abanian language is admixture of many diferent Non-Albanian sources. Out of 5140 studied words Romance (Latin) element is the most present, found in some 1420 borrowed words; Tataro-Turkic in 1180 words; so called “Greek” within 840 words, and the rest 540 words are of the Macedonic provenance. Some 400 words are found to be of African origin.”
    (‘Maps and Politics’ , H.R. Wilkinson, Liverpool, 1951.)

     
    • Irene Thompson

      Unfortunately, you are incorrect. Borrowed vocabulary is not considered to be a factor in assigning languages to families.

       
  3. Joan Francés Blanc

    Your list from Ethnologue is quite outdated, as Auvergnat, Gascon, Provençal, Languedocian, Limousin has been correctly merged into Occitan in 2007. Ethnologue figures about Occitan are greatly exagerated: the area of Occitan has ca. 16 M inhabitants, but a recent study by Fabrice Bernissan provides an estimate of 200,000 speakers for Occitan dialects altogether. See the article here: http://www.occitanparis.com/images/stories/documents/occitan-locutors-2012-bernissan.pdf

    Feel free to contact me for further information. Best regards, JF

     
    • Irene Thompson

      Thank you for the helpful information. You are right that the Romance branch and many others need updated.

       
  4. Sam

    At certain times, it would be more accurate to call the family’s sentence structure SOV. It’s not certain with the Romance languages, though, because when the object is a pronoun, it’s SOV, but when it’s a regular noun, it’s SVO. Enjoyed the page btw.

     
  5. Norman Scott Catledge

    The 20th Congress of the International Congress on Onomastic Sciences took place in Santiago de Compostella in September, 1999, organized by the Instituto da Lingua Galega, with the publication by the Biblioteca Filoloxica Galega of the Instituto da Lingua Galega. As you can tell by the names, the booklet was not written in Portuguese but in Galician–a well-known Romance language.

     

Add a Comment